The UK Introduces the Global Talent Visa: A New Route to Attract Talent and Boost Innovation

February 11, 2020 by Luke James

The UK Government has announced its new ‘Global Talent Visa’, an initiative that could lead to a lot of potential growth for the UK tech sector.

On February 20, 2020 the UK’s ‘Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa’ (Tier 1 ETV) is being expanded and renamed as the ‘Global Talent Visa’ (GTV) by the UK Government. This expansion is being introduced specifically to attract further talent to the areas of science and research, and consequently technology, and continuing to be open to talented applicants with skills and experience in digital technology, the arts, and culture. 


A UK immigration Home Office vehicle in London.

A Home Office immigration enforcement vehicle in London. Image used courtesy of Philafrenzy via Wikipedia.


What’s Changing?

Overall, the GTV aims to be a lot more flexible and faster than the current system. Those already living in the UK can apply to switch to a GTV from their current one, too.  

The GTV will have no limits on the number of visas that can be issued within a year, nor is there a minimum salary threshold for eligibility unlike with the current Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. Under the Tier ETV, only 2,000 visas were available annually. The families of researchers can also accompany the applicant and any research that has been conducted outside of the UK will count towards an application for settlement status, something which can be applied for after three years. 

Applicants can also choose the length of their visa up to a maximum of five years in one-year increments. Applicants can also choose how much leave, in whole years up to a maximum of five, that they wish to be granted. 

Despite the term ‘exceptional’ being dropped from the visa’s title, it remains available only to ‘highly skilled’ entrepreneurs, employees, and researchers. It is not a visa that can be used for general employment. 

Just like with the current setup, GTV applicants must be endorsed by an organization designated by the UK Home Office to develop sector-specific criteria and consider individual applications on its behalfs, such as the UK Research and Innovation body for science and research applicants. 


A chemist working in a lab.

The Global Talent Visa was introduced with the aim of attracting talent to the research, science, and engineering areas in the UK. 


Potential Growth for the Tech Sector

Although the GTV is designed to attract high-level talent from across science and research, it is open to a variety of applicants from a variety of backgrounds, not just science and research.

For example, the GTV is open to ‘digital technology specialists’ who the UK Government has said will get a “much faster decision” than the standard eight-week turnaround time. However, digital technology specialists must also apply for a ‘Tech Nation Visa endorsement’. This is because Tech Nation is the Government’s endorsing body for the GTV, much like the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) is for engineering applicants, with engineers required to apply for a visa endorsement from the RAE. 

The removal of the cap on the number of visas that can be granted, in conjunction with a much broader set of criteria, could see swathes of high-level specialist talent coming to the UK over the next few years. Given the demand for highly qualified individuals due to the current skills gap, the GTV is coming at a good time.